finances, savings, budgeting

Tips to improve your financial smarts this National Financial Literacy Month 

April is National Financial Literacy Month and what better way to celebrate than to take this opportunity to review and upgrade your financial smarts.

What is Financial Literacy Month and why is it important? 

Whether you’re just starting out or have been earning your way for quite some time, it’s never too late to learn about saving and improving your financial outlook. Developing a budget and building financial knowledge is the foundation for a brighter future.

Learning about financial literacy is not only for adults either. National Financial Literacy Month places the importance of learning about finances and the tools to learn about them right in the classroom, too. No matter their age, putting the know-how and resources at children’s fingertips will give them the power to make smart decisions now and in the future.

What began with The National Endowment for Financial Education as Youth Financial Literacy Day in 2000 has evolved into a month-long observance supported by the Jump$tart Coalition called National Financial Literacy Month. Both the House and Senate have fully supported National Financial Literacy Month through joint resolutions and the U.S. Department of Education promotes the observance of the month as well. Most recently, President Joe Biden proclaimed April National Financial Capability Month and called upon all Americans to observe the month by understanding barriers to financial well-being, and taking action to build their own financial capability and assist others to do so as well.

You might be interested: Financial matters are women reluctant to talk about money?

finances, budgeting,

Photo by StellrWeb on Unsplash

Tips to improve your financial literacy

  1. Read and inform yourself as much as you can

As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. If you want to take control of you financial literacy the best place to start is at the beginning by hitting the books. Start reading newspapers or magazines that focus on money matters. Check out books and guides for beginners. Financial literacy is a skill, and like any skill it takes time to learn. Treat it like a school subject or a new hobby you want to master and absorb all the knowledge you can about finances and money matters. 

  1. Make a budget and record your spending

If you want to be savvy with money budgeting is key. Having a set budget will help you estimate the amount of income and expenses for a given amount of time. There are many different kinds of budgets so you may have a weekly budget, monthly, or yearly. You could even have all three! Having a budget will help you keep track of your money and expenses and prevent overspending. 

Additionally, to take this a step further, you can record your spending. Get yourself a nice little notebook or make yourself a spreadsheet and use it to keep track of all your outgoing money. Tracking how much you spend and on what will help you identify areas where you may be overspending such as takeout food or online shopping. Once you know your spending habits, you can then make efforts to improve them. 

  1. Develop a savings strategy

After learning your spending habits, you can now start curating a saving strategy that will work best for you and your lifestyle. Having savings is incredibly important, as we have all learned over the past year, because you never know when an emergency or disaster may strike. Since the pandemic hit, thousands have lost jobs and seen huge changes in their financial situations. By creating a set savings strategy you can help ensure that you will always have something to fall back on. 

Use your newfound budgeting skills to create savings funds such as an emergency fund, a fund for a certain goal, or even retirement. After reviewing your fixed expenses in your budget, decide on an amount that you can set aside each month to go toward your savings fund. Once you put it in your savings, forget about it! Over time you’ll be able to accumulate a solid savings fund for your future.

  1. Utilize financial management tools

If you need help getting started with managing your finances, financial management tools are a great addition. There is a wide variety of both free and paid tools in the marketplace that can help you manage your credit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts, and more. Take some time to research different management tools and find one that works for you and your unique needs.

  1. Ask advice from others or talk to a professional 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about money, seek out the wisdom of others who have already mastered the art of financial literacy. A trusted family member or friend is a great place to start. You can also speak with a financial advisor, whose job it is to help you manage your money safely. An advisor can help you create a financial plan and guide you through many of the steps toward building financial literacy. 

Latinas in Business partners with Rutgers’ Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative (EPI) Program

Jasmine Cordero is the director of Rutgers’ award-winning Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative (EPI) Program where she manages the 9-month training program focused on helping entrepreneurs in NJ grow their businesses and attain resources, financial coaching, peer-mentoring, and networking opportunities. 

Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative

Apply today! Deadline March 31.

The Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative (EPI) offered by Rutgers University’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development (CUEED) is an exclusive program that has helped countless entrepreneurs grow and improve their businesses for over 13 years. 

Now, Latinas in Business is becoming Strategic Partners with Rutgers’ EPI program to bring our Members more support and resources and help them get their businesses to the next level. Latina in Business Members will receive an exclusive discount on the program, paying only $300 instead of $550. 

Additionally, Rutgers will be sponsoring 3 scholarships for Latina in Business Members each year. 

“We are grateful and excited that Rutgers EPI program has partnered with Latinas in Business to give access to better knowledge, support and resources to our members. Latina entrepreneurs are a hard-working community that can use all the help they can get,” said Latinas in Business President and CEO, Susana G Baumann. 

Susana G Baumann with 2019 Latinas in Business Pitch Competition winners.

How the EPI Program will help you grow your business

Speaking with Jasmine, she explains what the EPI Program does, what participants can expect and gain from the program, and how to apply. 

“The EPI is an award-winning program and has won several national and international awards for its innovative curriculum and aiding economic development. The goal is to help entrepreneurs have thriving, sustainable and profitable businesses.

Participants receive intensive business training, individual business and financial coaching, peer mentoring, networking opportunities and mentoring over a 9-month period to help them grow and improve their businesses. The program also helps participants develop the skills and tools needed to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and any other crisis that their business may face.” 

Jasmine Cordero as one of the judges at the 2019 Latinas in Business Pitch Competition.

What do small Business owners take away from the program? 

“Entrepreneurs leave the program with a road map, actionable, and measurable plan on how they are going to grow their business within the next three years. They also leave with an expanded network, a support network, and increased business knowledge to help them with their business growth.”

How do they graduate, and what are the requirements for graduation? 

To gain the full benefit of the EPI program, all participants must commit to:

    • Half a day training sessions biweekly on Fridays (Virtual via Zoom)
    • Additional hours (approximately 6-10) over the nine-month program for business development and financial coaching 
    • Developing and presenting a customized growth plan for your business
Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative

Visit https://www.business.rutgers.edu/cueed/epi for more information on the program and how to apply.

Is there funding involved?

Each participant will have their own business and financial coaches. As part of the coaching, the business coach will help them identify opportunities to grow and the financial coach will help them find funding. 

Who can apply? 

In order to be able to apply to the program you must be in business/fully operational for at least a minimum of 2 years and located in NJ.

Registration is now open for the 13th cohort. The deadline to apply is March 31. You can complete an application at https://www.business.rutgers.edu/cueed/epi.

Adriane Medeiros shares investment planning strategies for financial empowerment and tips for success

We are proud to introduce and welcome our newest LIB Executive Board Member, Adriane Medeiros. Adriane is a Financial Services Professional with New York Life Insurance Company and specializes in life insurance and retirement investment planning. She is a great resource to our community, offering financial tips, seminars, and one-on-one appointments in financial and investment planning.

financial planning

Adriane Medeiros, Financial Services Professional and LIB Executive Board Member (Photo courtesy Adriane Medeiros)

Originally born in Brazil, she has lived in New Jersey for over 32 years and has a degree in Business with a minor in Economics and Finances, from Kean University in New Jersey.

Transforming lives through investment planning

Adriane has always had a passion for business and finances. In the early days of her career she worked for the Latino market of an investment banking company. However, after the 2009 recession, she decided to reinvent herself and pursue a career as a Registered Financial Professional.

As a Financial Professional, she works directly with individuals and small business owners and takes great pride in getting to know her clients personally one-on-one.

“I want to hear my client’s life story. Every client has a unique set of circumstances,” says Adriane, “and my approach is to learn as much as possible about my client’s financial concerns, so I can help them achieve their goals, and even transform their lives.”

This individualized approach enables Adriane to offer customized recommendations for insurance and financial products that help her clients achieve financial peace of mind.

“The most rewarding part of my career is being able to create lifelong relationships with my clients that are based on trust, service, and integrity!” she says.

Adriane with LIB founder, Susana G. Baumann (Photo courtesy Adriane Medeiros)

Trust and integrity are especially important in a field like finances. Adriane says one of the biggest obstacles she faces in her industry is that the Latino community in general does not trust financial institutions.

“Past experiences can be the reason for this distrust, and as a Latina myself, I understand the struggles that immigrants face, especially regarding financial planning” she says. “But unfortunately, when it is passed from generation to generation, it prevents Latinos from embracing opportunities to create and transfer wealth with something as affordable as life insurance.”

Adriane has seen business owners lose a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice due to lack of information and financial planning. Witnessing these hardships within the Latino community has further motivated her to help Latinos achieve financial empowerment and break the cycles of poverty and violence that are still present in Latino communities.

“My Latino clientele is very diversified, from undocumented, non-English speaking first generation immigrants, to highly educated professionals, but regardless of their background or net worth – It is my promise to treat them with respect and integrity. We work hard, and we all deserve to be a part of the American Dream.”

Life Insurance: Protecting loved ones when we are no longer here

In communities where financial and investment planning is not always the top priority, many may not think to consider a future without them in it when making plans or investments. Few want to think about such a subject as death, but it is a reality and life insurance is one key tool and investment planning strategy many can use to ensure their loved ones are taken care of later in life.

“When premature death strikes a family, it creates a lifetime of struggles and lost opportunities that can last for generations!” says Adriane.

Through her work she has seen the life-changing impact that investment planning can have on a family especially when it comes to unexpected deaths.

investment planning

Adriane at New York Life Executive Council, 2019 (Photo courtesy Adriane Medeiros)

“I always share my experience when I delivered a life insurance check to a young woman that had suddenly lost her husband. He was self-employed, and they did not have any assets, except for their home which still had a mortgage. My client’s widow was devastated and grieving, but she was extremely thankful that the life insurance death benefit would allow her family to stay in the same house so her children would not have to move to another school system. It also enabled her to keep a comfortable lifestyle and guaranteed that she would be able to afford a college education for her children later. All of that was possible because a few years earlier her late husband purchased a life insurance policy with a premium of less than $40.00 per month!”

A life insurance investment is an investment to protect your family’s future. Adriane describes it as “a love letter that protects our loved ones when we are no longer here to protect them ourselves.”

Creating a life of abundance and financial empowerment

However, when we plan for the future we must also plan for a long, healthy life as well, which is where Adriane’s other area of expertise comes in: retirement planning. Retirement planning is another important, but often overlooked, investment planning strategy.

“As immigrants, we are so eager to work and make a living, that we sometimes forget to live, and we fail to plan for our future,” says Adriane.

Retirement planning is especially important for women who face unique challenges in retirement.

“During their working years, among other things, women (1) usually earn less than men, (2) they save less than men, (3) they are more likely to take time off to be caregivers, and (4) they live longer than men (a 65 year-old woman has a 50% chance of living to age 91).”

You might be interested: Best use of PPP and other financing strategies for Latina business owners

Adriane’s goal is to help all her clients achieve a life of abundance and financial empowerment through investment planning so that they can support their families for generations to come.

Adriane helping out with Dikaion, a non-profit organization in Brazil that she has been involved with for over 20 years (Photo courtesy of Adriane Mederios)

“I love it when I can show my clients how to enjoy their lives during their working years, but also prepare for the unexpected and plan for the future! I see each appointment as an opportunity to educate and empower. I want people to be excited and fully engaged about their own finances because knowledge really is power when it comes to money.”

7 Tips for success

There’s no doubt we all want to be successful in our professional endeavors. If you’re ready to embrace a life of abundance, financial empowerment, and go for you goals, check out Adriane’s top 7 tips for success in business below!

Adriane Medeiros

Adriane at Hispanic Heritage Month Event (Photo courtesy Adriane Medeiros)

  1. Learn about yourself, and your paradigms!  The more you know about yourself, the sooner you will get rid of paradigms and negative beliefs that are keeping you from the amazing and abundant life that you deserve!
  2. Invest in you! Make professional and personal development priorities throughout your life, and please, pay attention to your finances.
  3. Take Care of Yourself! It is important to follow all the necessary steps to success, such as preparation, discipline, perseverance, knowledge, etc., but when we face challenges (and we all do) – you must remember that YOU are the most important resource in your business. You have unlimited potential, but you need to pay close attention to the warning signs when physical and mental exhaustion are hurting you and your performance. Remember to put your oxygen mask first so you can help others.
  4. Never give up on your goal! Sometimes we must change our plans, and adjust to our circumstances, but have faith that the universe is always working in your favor if you do not give up!
  5. Be profoundly grateful! Setbacks can be devastating, and we might not be able to look on the bright side when bad things are happening, but when we are grateful for everything else that we have, and for the lessons that setbacks bring us, we are actually changing our mindset. A grateful mindset restores our faith and makes us resilient!
  6. Create a Mission that aligns with your career or business! My knowledge and experience as a financial advisor has enabled me to fulfill my mission to financially empower minorities, and transform lives.
  7. Be generous with your money, your time, and your knowledge Always give to those that will never be able to pay you back.  When you start giving without any expectation of getting something in return, you have achieved an abundant and successful life.
Care2Share

Care2Share Investors Bank helps you support Latinas in Business on #GivingTuesday

Investors Bank Care2Share program is helping you help Latinas in Business on #GivingTuesday!  Instead of your money, we are just asking for your support and a 2-minute form registration!

Care2ShareI have a very special thank you to Investors Bank. As seen on this picture, Carlos Yepez, VP Senior Business Development Manager received our Life Supporter Award! Congratulations to Carlos and all the Investors Bank team on behalf of all of us at Latinas in Business Inc.!

So, let me tell you a short story about how I became an Investors Bank customer.

Care2Share

Carlos Yepez, Investors Bank, Received Lifetime Supporter Award

In 2009, my former business LCSWorldwide was hit hard by the Great Recession. With 75% of my contracts in the government sector, I was belly up.

I remember that summer I was looking for extra income and became a “Secret Shopper” for a NJ company. One of the locations I had to visit was Investors Bank. I had to “fake” I was a customer wanting to open an account, become a customer, and then report back to them.

I was so impressed with their customer service and their products that I had an “Aha!” moment. I immediately transferred my business account to Investors Bank and I never looked back.

Investors Bank is a community-serving bank. It is designed to help small businesses like mine -at the time- and yours. Now that Latinas in Business has become a non-profit organization, they are still helping through their Care2Share program!

Care2Share

(L to R) Super Bowl Champion and Wellness Entrepreneur Isaiah Stanback with Investors Bank Manager Jacqueline Sansone

Their Care2Share program helps organizations like ours increase their funding by donating 0.25% of Investors’ qualifying customers’ account balances every time an Investors Bank’s customer signs up to the program.

It costs you nothing! This is how it works:

  • Enroll your eligible Investors accounts with Latinas in Business Inc.
  • We will receive 0.25% on average monthly balance* of your checking account or 0.15% on average monthly balance* of your savings account
  • Complete the simple Care2Share enrollment form and start giving back to your favorite nonprofit, Latinas in Business!

At this time of year, when many organizations are looking for your donation, we just ask you to sign up to the Care2Share program. Do good and it will cost you nothing!

Care2Share

And if you are looking for a bank that serves your small business needs, I hope you would consider moving your accounts to your local Investors Bank, just like I did!

Please sign up now and support our mission to advocate for the economic empowerment of Latinas and other minority women entrepreneurs through the Investors Bank Care2Share program!

 

*Your information stays completely confidential and it costs you nothing to participate! This is an advertorial article on behalf of Investors Bank.

You might be interested: Giving thanks and moving forward into 2018

 

DREAMers included in NJ Second Year Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG)

DREAMers are included in the launch of the New Jersey Second Year Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG), “Everyone deserves an opportunity to pursue his or her dreams—whether you are a recent high school graduate or an older student changing your career,” said Governor Murphy. “Our community colleges play a critical role in helping our students build the skillsets they need to meet the demands of a growing and diverse 21st-century economy. CCOG grants provides a pathway to success for both our students and our state as a whole.”

Gov Phil Murphy with NJ DREAMers during last year launch of Alternative Financial Aid Application for New Jersey DREAMers (Photo Credit Official Twitter Site of Gov Phil Murphy).

Governor Phil Murphy visited Middlesex County College, alongside Speaker Craig Coughlin, Executive Director David Socolow of the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA), and Deputy Secretary Diana Gonzalez of the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE), to encourage students to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or New Jersey Alternative Financial Aid Application for New Jersey DREAMers by September 15, 2019 in order to be eligible for a Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG).

Free tuition possible in Alternative Application for New Jersey DREAMers

To receive free tuition through CCOG starting in the fall 2019 semester, all students planning to attend a New Jersey county college must meet the September 15, 2019 deadline to complete either FAFSA or the Alternative Application for New Jersey DREAMers.

They also need to respond to all financial aid questions from HESAA or the college they are attending. Students with adjusted gross incomes between $0 and $65,000 may qualify to attend any of New Jersey’s 18 county colleges tuition-free during the upcoming academic year.

Thousands of students will have now the opportunity to enter community colleges in New Jersey through the CCOG Program. (Photo Credit Good Free from Unsplash)

Qualifying county college students who enroll in at least six credits per semester during the fall of 2019 and/or the spring of 2020 will be eligible for Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) awards funded by the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations Act signed by Governor Murphy.

For eligible students, “last-dollar” CCOG scholarships will fill in remaining gaps to cover tuition and approved educational fees after accounting for all other grant and scholarship aid for which the students are eligible. Students who have already completed a financial aid application for academic year 2019-2020 will be considered automatically for CCOG eligibility.

“Over 300 Middlesex County College students participated in the Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) program in the spring 2019 semester, including many who would not have been able to attend if not for CCOG,” said Mark McCormick, President of Middlesex County College. “I believe that CCOG is an investment in our students as they earn an associate degree or industry credential that leads to a career with family-supporting wages.”

CCOG is designed as a last-dollar scholarship, participating students must first apply for all other federal, state, and institutional financial aid grants. As the crucial September 15 application deadline approaches, HESAA is working with county colleges across the state to reach students and help them complete the financial aid forms they need to qualify for free tuition and approved educational fees.

You might be interested: Latina activist and educator Maria Santiago-Valentin advocates for classroom inclusion

“Every New Jerseyan, regardless of life circumstances, should have the opportunity to obtain a high-quality credential that prepares them for life after college. Expanding the Community College Opportunity Grant brings our state one step closer to achieving this vision by enabling us to serve more of New Jersey’s community college students,” said Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis. “During my spring graduation tour of New Jersey’s colleges, I heard over and over from students for whom free tuition made it possible for them to afford college. I’m excited we are able to continue and expand this fantastic opportunity.”

 

For more information or to RSVP, please visit https://www.hesaa.org/Documents/FAFSA/NJFAFSACompletionEvents2020-2021.pdf.

For detailed information on program parameters and eligibility criteria, please visit www.hesaa.org/Pages/CCOG.aspx

Erika Basurto

How Latina entrepreneur Erika Basurto found success in real estate

Real estate Latina entrepreneur Erika Basurto found her strengths around her “weaknesses” as a Spanish-speaking immigrant. Since she lived the struggle of overcoming language barriers and learning a profession that would eventually open doors for her, she decided to give back to her community by creating investment opportunities for other Hispanic families in Texas.

Erika Basurto

Erika Basurto, Bravo Investments, at Houston Hispanic ERA (Photo courtesy of Erika Basurto)

 

 

 

Real estate is a tough business to break into, and that’s probably an understatement. And once you’re in, you still have to deal with the long hours and working on commission, among other challenges, to achieve success in the world of real estate.

That’s what makes Erika Basurto’s accomplishments so impressive. She founded two Real Estate Investors Associations (REIA), one of which is the Houston Hispanic REIA. She has also been hosting the Invierte en Bienes Raíces con Erika Basurto (Invest in Real Estate with Erika Basurto) radio show since 2016, where she talks about real estate aimed at the Hispanic community.

real estate

Erika Basurto teaches Hispanic families in Houston and surrounding areas to invest in real estate. (Photo courtesy of Erika Basurto)

But before her success in such a competitive real estate industry, the challenges were doubly hard for Basurto because of the language barrier. Before moving to Houston, she lived in Mexico where she worked in logistics and didn’t speak much English. In an interview with Voyage Houston, she said that a chance encounter sparked her dream of finding success in the real estate industry. While working as a logistics store clerk, one of her customers asked her help in translating a real estate contract from English to Spanish, resulting in months of work.

The single mother earning $10 an hour was introduced to the possibility of making a lot more in less time. For Basurto, the choice was clear, albeit not easy to achieve.

During a guest appearance on The Landlord Survival Show (video above), she recounted how she started with a $500 class on wholesaling. Then she took another class worth $6,000, for which she had to borrow the money, and a few other classes that would help her gain the knowledge and skills — the tools she needed to find success in real estate. She also read books on subjects like attracting investors, watched free YouTube tutorials, and attended many networking events to foster connections with others in her field.

real estate

Erika Basurto, overcoming barriers to achieve success as a real estate investor (Photo courtesy of Erika Basurto)

One of the main challenges she experienced was that there were no classes taught in Spanish. She admits that she struggled a lot with jargon and often felt disconnected from fellow realtors and clients. It’s what prompted her to establish the first REIA in Houston that caters specifically for the Hispanic community. They regularly host bilingual events on a variety of topics in real estate.

Considering that the Hispanic population in Texas is almost as big as the white population, and there are a lot more Spanish-speakers in the state, she realized that these initiatives would help a lot of people who are interested in finding real estate success, whether as an investor or career person.

As relayed above, Basurto wasn’t handed her title and reputation on a silver platter. She had to rise through the ranks starting with translating contracts. She also needed to get familiar with the hierarchy in the industry, and what to do to get to the next level.

A featured post on Yoreevo details the differences between a real estate agent and a broker — essentially, you have to gain a few years of experience as a real estate agent and reach a minimum number of deals before you can become a broker. Basurto is now a business partner at Bravo Investors, which allows her to harness her brokerage and entrepreneurial skills.

 

You might be interested: Latina Career Coach Bonnie Negron gives advice for achieving career goals

In a competitive business such as real estate, ask yourself what it is that you can offer to the industry. Basurto knew that she wasn’t the only one who struggled with the language and she wanted to help others fill that gap. Her real estate success story tells us that even the toughest barriers can be broken with determination.

Brittney Castro financial planning

Brittney Castro creates a financial planning firm geared toward women

After years of working in the male-dominated industry of financial planning, Brittney Castro saw an opportunity to use her skills and create a company that caters toward female clients. Castro is a Certified Financial Planner and founder of Financially Wise Women, a Los Angeles-based financial planning firm aimed toward teaching money managing skills to women and couples in fun, easy, and simple ways.

Brittney Castro financial planning

Brittney Castro, founder Financially Wise Women (Courtesy FleishmanHillard)

Discussing finances can often be intimidating and extremely personal so it is important that clients find the right person they trust to work in a comfortable environment.

Brittney explains, “I wanted to work with clients the same way I talk about money with my girlfriends–in a smart, personal, feminine way that’s compassionate, fun, and non-judgmental.” Castro has become an expert in her field and has been featured on various media outlets such as CNN, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Glamour, and Elle to name a few.  

Her success though has come after many years of hard work and dedication to her field.

Castro began her career working at a firm called Ameriprise Financial shortly after finishing college in 2006. From there she went on to work for an independent financial planning firm in West Los Angeles.

It was during this time that Brittney began to build her brand as the financial planner for women. Finally in 2012, Brittney took the plunge and created her company, Financially Wise Women. She craved the creative freedom that she could not find within the confines of the corporate structure.

You might be interested: Financial planning a must to face life events

Financial planning for women and beyond

Brittney Castro financial planning

Brittney Castro, CFP at one of her television interviews (Courtesy Brittney Castro (Courtesy FleishmanHillard)

Creating her own company allowed her to focus on her female clients and build an environment that was more personal and inviting unlike the ridged corporate environments of the mainstream financial planning world. 

Brittney describes the process of building her financial planning company as “an exciting journey” that has also come with great success and as well as “a lot of obstacles and challenges.” These challenges have not deterred her but instead have helped her grow stronger and wiser.

“Each time I was hit with a challenge, I persevered,” she said.  This perseverance and resilience has followed her throughout her entire career and has been one of her keys to success. Castro credits many of these resilient traits to her “Latina ‘spice,'” as she says. She celebrates her Latina roots saying, “My drive, resilience and hard work are all traits I find in common in Latinas and I am very proud of who I’ve become and the things I’ve achieved in life and business.”

Financial Education Ambassador

Brittney Castro financial planning

Brittney Castro at #WEALLGROW Summit (Courtesy FleishmanHillard)

When asked about a favorite moment in her career thus far, Brittney described her experience as the Chase Financial Education Ambassador. In this role, Castro has been able to help educate people, and specifically Hispanics, about the importance of credit and financial literacy.

This job has been an immensely rewarding experience for Brittney. “Growing up I always wanted my own business and to help people in life,” says Castro. After much hard work and determination, Castro has realized those aspirations.

Her advice to other Latinas aiming to achieve success in their professions is hard work and “just keep going.” Success is created through “a lot of hard work, dedication, and passion” she explains. “I have never seen an ‘overnight’ success because of the many years of behind-the-scenes work that goes into an ‘overnight’ success.”

She also advises to pick a career that excites you and that you are passionate about. “Enjoy it all!” she says. “Laugh and celebrate all the wins and challenges along the way as that is truly what life is all about.”

When she is not busy in the office, Brittney can be found working out, enjoying a coffee or smoothie, playing with her dog Arya at the local park, “and, of course, dancing.”

Hurricane Harvey recovery

Top 5 steps to your Hurricane Harvey recovery

Hurricane Harvey recovery is deemed to be one of the longest and most expensive tasks we will have to face in many years to come. Here are some insights from the SBA Administrator, Linda McMahon, on how her office can help. In New Jersey, we lived through Hurricane Sandy and it was a devastating experience for many residents as well as businesses without an appropriate recovery plan. Many never did recover. Reach out to the SBA to require help and assistance, do not delay! 

Hurricane Harvey recovery

Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard move through flooded Houston streets (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West Wikimedia Commons)

 

By Linda McMahon, SBA Administrator
Published: September 1, 2017

Over the past week, as the people of the Gulf Coast deal with the unprecedented effects of Hurricane Harvey, we have seen heartbreaking moments of tragedy, of lives lost, homes destroyed and neighborhoods left in ruin, as well as remarkable acts of heroism and compassion as the first responders and people of Texas and Louisiana help each other survive. I have visited Texas twice in the past week and want to extend to the Gulf community my thoughts and prayers, as well as my commitment to help them get their lives back in order through the resources available through the U.S. Small Business Administration. While FEMA addresses immediate needs like food, water and shelter in the aftermath of a declared disaster, the SBA is your partner for long-term recovery.

Experts say Hurricane Harvey will pose one of the longest and costliest post-disaster rebuilding efforts in U.S. history. If you’re a homeowner, renter or business owner facing the overwhelming task of cleaning up water-logged debris and starting over again, I’d like to share these first steps that are important in making your recovery a little easier:

  • Register for federal assistance with FEMA online at DisasterAssistance.gov, or call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).  This gets you quickly connected with a  variety of recovery resources available from our federal partners, which includes housing assistance, grants and SBA disaster loans.
  • Check out SBA’s Hurricane Harvey page, where you can get information about how to apply for low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and private nonprofit organizations.
  • The SBA is offering loan deferments on existing loans to businesses and individuals in the counties affected by Hurricane Harvey. Read this policy noticeDownload Adobe Reader to read this link content for more details.
  • Beware of scams!  If someone tells you they’ll help with your SBA disaster loan application or other forms of federal recovery assistance “for a small fee,” they’re running a scam. Federal assistance programs are available to the public at no cost. Ask for identification. Protect yourself from fraudulent building contractors by asking for appropriate licenses and local references.

Now the real work begins. The SBA is committed to standing by Gulf Coast residents and businesses for the long haul. We are committee to restoring the local economy over the long term and laying a strong foundation for future growth.

Hurricane Harvey recovery

U.S Border Patrol agent Mario Fuentes searches for survivors among the rubble of a mobile home after Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Texas, Aug. 27, 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Glenn Fawcett (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Saving for college is a hard task for Latino parents

5 Resources to help Latino parents save for college education

College education is an alternative for many Latino families to help their children climb the social ladder but a very hard one when it comes to saving and paying for it. Here’s some insights and resources to make the task easier. 

Hispanic children graduate from college

When we arrived to the US in 1990, I was 40 years old and had a career as a college professor which I left behind in Argentina. I knew a college education was the most important step in achieving better paid jobs so I decided to go back to school and work towards a second Masters degree, which I finished painfully in 1995 thanks to multiple scholarships my alma mater, Monmouth University, granted me.

My children were 9 and 13 at the time of our arrival and I had little knowledge of what would entitle for them to attend a paid college. Unlike Argentina’s public universities, which offer free higher education, the United States has a paid system that is on the rise and its high cost is preventing a lot of young people from accessing higher education.

 However, that was not the case in the 19th Century United States, when California state colleges and universities –the largest in the nation at the time- were tuition-free, as were many educational institutions around the country. “Ronald Reagan made the University of California a major punching bag of his 1966 campaign for governor of California, with the encouragement of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who saw campus peace activists as dangerous subversives,” Monster College reports. Upon taking office, he imposed a new fee that became the starting point for college tuition around the country.

 Latinos and college education

Latinos are the youngest demographics in the United States and the group with higher fertility rates. Consequently, young generations of Latinos are entering the workforce at staggering rates. Despite an increase in college registration, Latino college completion is still low in states highly populated by Hispanics.

According to ¡Excelencia in Education!, “Latinos will need to earn 5.5 million more degrees by 2020.” However, the big barrier continues to be funding for college, and families need to learn more about their options to send their children to college.

So why are parents not saving enough? Is it because they have poor saving habits or because they aren’t aware of the options they have?Mother looking at college bills college education

“Experts on the cost of higher education and student debt say these are the wrong questions to ask. Yes, some parents could increase their savings or choose a 529 account, but poor parents have very little, if anything, to save, and middle class parents are often forced to choose between saving for retirement and saving for their child’s college tuition,” says a report from Think Progress.

Asked why they aren’t saving for college, 58% of non-saving families (more so for middle- and low-income families) say it’s because they don’t have enough money, 22% say they expect their kids to qualify for enough financial aid or scholarships to cover the cost and 21% say they haven’t gotten around to it. Interestingly, significantly more high-income families (21%) than middle- (13%) or low-income (5%) families say that they aren’t saving for college because they think it is their child’s responsibility to pay for college. Market Watch

What are your options? The nuts and bolts of college tuition

“One of the biggest life events parents face and don’t plan adequately enough for is their children attending college. Saving for higher education is a daunting task, but breaking it down may help. Rising costs and saving enough are two main concerns that you should take into account,” says financial planner Anthony Privetera.

However, there are resources out there that might help you with planning adequately, even if you think you cannot save enough for your children’s future. Let’s start with the basics:

  1. Colleges charge tuition for the instruction:

Colleges charge tuition by a semester or quarterly. For residents of any state, public colleges offer lower tuition rates but out-of-state residents usually pay double the tuition of residents. When you are working with your child to choose a college, choose wisely from a variety of public in-state universities and community colleges that might help you save money.

While most states have low-cost options for in-state students, if your child plans to go out of the state or into a private school, be prepared for a big jump. College Data provides some great insight into these choices, if you want to learn more.

Tuition also varies by field of study or major. Depending on the college, students in the sciences, engineering, computing, pre-med programs, and the fine arts might pay more. However, your child might have options to complete basic requirements with and “undecided major” or complete a 2-year program at a community college with courses that might be transferable to a 4-year degree college.

  1. Colleges charge fees for services:

    Latino parents have multiple options to help their children pay for college

    Latino parents have multiple options to help their children pay for college

This is “sweet money” colleges charge that might include using the library, for in-campus transportation, student government, and athletic facilities, even if your child is not into sports. How can a student prepare his/her classes without access to the library? Anyway, colleges usually include fees with tuition but you can request an itemized report for all these expenses.

  1. Colleges also offer “room and board”:

The cost of room and board depends on the campus housing and food plans you choose, and there are usually several options, including living on and off-campus. It might be very exciting for your child to live on campus where all the “action” happens but make them understand that that option might not be available for them at this time if they really want to pursue a college education.

If you choose your child to commute from home –my son did it for a year until he got a job to pay for his own living expenses–, consider transportation cost and food at home.

  1. Colleges will estimate the cost of learning materials and other expenses:

Some colleges might include the cost of learning materials such as a computer, its accessories or text books. They might also estimate personal items, local transportation outside campus, clothing, etc. Again, ask for itemized explanation of costs, especially if your child can bring his/her own device.

The sticker price of college may seem overwhelming, but choosing the right option for your child can make a great difference and financial aid can greatly reduce your cost.

Check this college saving calculator provided by SavingforCollege.com and get a report with the estimated money you will need to save along these years until your child is ready to go to college. I like this planner because it gives you options on saving money if you decide, for instance, that your child will be living off campus. You can also add each of your children with their respective ages. The younger your child, the larger the money will grow, helping you achieve your goals.

5. Scholarships and grants

The federal and state governments as well as colleges and other non-profit/private organizations all provide assistance, each with their own process.  The Federal Student Aid office of the US Department of Education has an excellent site that helps you understand where to start.

Scholarships and grants are often called “gift aid” because they are free money—financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid. Grants are often need-based, while scholarships are usually merit-based. According to Federal Student Aid, aid can come from:

My daughter finished her Humanities Doctoral degree with a Mellon Fellowship from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation at University of Pennsylvania, which saved her a lot of money in college tuition repayments.

Besides financial aid, you have other ways to lower costs when your children go to college that might not be of your knowledge.

Financial aid is availablePiggy Bank with college savings or fees chart
“Besides the sticker shock, you also have to take into account that the price of colleges has increased, on average, by 8% over the last 30 years according to the National Center for Education Statistics numbers. Starting to save early definitely adds up here, since it’s an uphill battle for parents. Every dollar you can save earlier will decrease your child’s loan payment once they are out of school,” said Privetera.

The financial planner suggests that parents start thinking about college options after high school sophomore year –when your child completed freshman and junior years. Once you’ve made it through the first two years of high school with your child, making sense of the financial aid available is just as important as the majors and classes you will be looking at.

“Consider looking at educational savings plans. The most popular are 529 College Savings Plans and Coverdell Savings Accounts. They are sometimes misunderstood but those who take advantage of the power of starting early can really make a difference,” expert financial planner Privetera said.

More information can be found at the following link:

All these options were established to give parents well deserved bonuses for planning for their children’s future. Understanding the challenges ahead and making choices now are important to making your child’s future brighter.

Are you aware of other options specifically for Latino students?

According to Financial Aid Finder, “there are hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants available for Latino Americans from non-governmental enterprises.  From not-for-profit organizations to major private companies, those that offer these so-called niche grants require students to demonstrate financial need, as well as to match certain requirements.” These requirements may include students to excel in their academic performance –a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher– and/or a particular planned field of study. Programs are typically highly competitive but not impossible to access.

Here is a list of some of the many nation-wide grant opportunities for Latino students:

Saving for college is a hard task for Latino parents

Saving for college is a hard task for Latino parents

  • The Hispanic College Fund (HCF) awards nearly $2 million a year to over 600 Hispanic American students nationwide.
  • Sodexho awards eighteen $5,000 annual grants to promising young Hispanic students. All candidates for the HCF program will automatically be considered for the Sodexho program.
  • The Sally Mae Fund First in My Family program awards $500,000 annually to Hispanic Americans who are the first in the family to attend college. Individual awards range from $500-5000 per student, per year.
  • The Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA) awards $150,000 per year to Hispanic American students with a minimum 3.0 GPA pursuing a major in accounting, finance, information technology or a related field. Individual awards range from $1,250-10,000 per student, per year.
  • The Google Scholarship Fund awards twenty individuals a $10,000 grant to pursue studies in computer science or engineering. Grantees must have a minimum 3.5 GPA and be outstanding juniors or seniors, Master’s or PhD students.
  • The Kaiser Permanente College to Caring Program provides six outstanding Hispanic American nursing students in their juniors or senior year with an $8,000 annual grant. Grantees also receive a $2,000 stipend toward a work-study program at Kaiser Permanente in California.
  • The Hilton Family Diversity program awards ten renewable $2,500 grants each year to deserving Hispanic students attending any four-year college or university within the United States. Grantees are also invited to attend the annual Hilton Scholars Retreat.
  • The Lockheed Martin program awards $90,000 per year to Hispanic American students pursuing degrees in business administration, science or engineering. Individual awards range from $500-5000.
  • The Los Padres Foundation awards two $5,000 grants per year – for one outstanding male and one outstanding female Puerto Rican or Latino student pursuing a graduate degree.